I moved to Saitama about three months ago, which gives me a commute time of roughly 40 minutes to work. This is longer than the 10 minutes or so from my previous apartment in Tokyo. Well, something interesting happened to my language studies as a result. I find that I am learning a lot more Japanese! For the record, I am a full-time Japanese-English translator; contrary to popular belief, translators still need to constantly learn new vocabulary and industry terminology to stay competitive. This game never ends!
In this series, I’m going to share how you can better use your commute time for learning a foreign language. In today’s post, I will talk about the benefits of studying on your way to work or school.
The benefits of studying a language during your commute
Your commute is a regular time slot that repeats every day. Over time, small increments of time add up to big returns. Let’s do a quick calculation of what this means. A 30 minute commute by train is 60 minutes per day. Assuming you studied Chinese every day during this time (instead of texting your friends or mindlessly browsing Facebook! not that I would ever do that 😉 ) and did the same amount study during the weekends, this amounts to 21,900 minutes a year. Not bad going! In reality, it is much easier to stick to studying during a regular commute than is putting aside time for studying.
I can honestly say that I now look forward to studying Japanese during my commute. When I have a bit more time, I even take the slower train to fit in a bit more learning (I know I am a bit weird for this). I’ll cover the specifics of how I study in another post, but I usually add new material in the mornings and focus on reviewing in the evening. I have found that doing something useful before I even get to work helps relieve some of the stress that comes with working in the hectic concrete jungle that is Tokyo. I feel less rushed and more at ease.
Rewiring the brain
Practically all of the apps you use on your mobile phone, especially social media and games, target the dopamine reward systems in your brain. Each new update, prize, or notification is linked to dopamine release (I once interviewed a gaming company in Singapore who openly told me they base their gaming experience on addicting their users). This might not be so bad in the scheme of things; I’d rather be addicted to Angry Birds than tobacco. But replacing these time killers with something useful (you do want to learn a language, right?) literally rewires your brain. Three months into my new schedule, I am now far more addicted to adding and mastering new words than social media. Rewiring the brain is something that interests me. The internet is such a great tool, but I feel that many of us have been led astray into wasting time and money on it instead of using its full potential for our own long-term benefit and well-being. I recommend reading a book called The Shallows, which is a fascinating (and foreboding) take on the internet’s role in neuroplasticity.
Following a regular study habit during my commute time has made my enjoy life more. I no longer view my train to work as an annoyance. It’s a marvelous part of the day where I discover new and interesting things about the Japanese language. There is also a sense of achievement as the unknown transforms into the familiar before eventually becoming an old friend.
These are just a few of the advantages of studying your target language every day during your commute. Whether you take public transport or drive, it’s safe to say that you can fit some learning time into your routine. Do you currently study during your commute? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.
In the next post, I will share the method I am employing to boost my Japanese knowledge during my commute to work. Until then!
Rohan has spent years studying Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and currently lives in Japan. He created the perapera pop-up dictionary plugins to help other learners of Chinese and Japanese.